KUALA LUMPUR, 10 Jan 2019:
It was a very subdued soft launch of Sunway Putra Mall’s autism-friendly Tuesdays on Jan 8 – unlike other loud and flashy debuts, common area lighting at the premises were dimmed about 30% while the ambient music volume was but a whisper, having been reduced by 70%.
Taking the low-key approach proved to be a very successful start for its Autsome campaign – now weekly on Tuesdays between 10am and 5pm, with the mall’s management aiming to eventually extend this softer approach for all its patrons and visitors during all operational hours.
A leisurely walk around the mall didn’t point out any major differences – many of the usual shoppers or those simply visiting probably didn’t notice the subtle changes of the Autsome initiative.
But for those diagnosed with autism spectrum, the mall was a real welcome from the otherwise daunting experience of going to a public place.
One young autistic adult of 25 years said the visit was really pleasant, explaining he had read about the Tuesday initiative at the Sunway Putra Mall Facebook page and decided to drop by as he was curious.
“I would usually visit malls on weekdays as it’s far less crowded then. Having Autsome on Tuesdays when less people are about makes a lot of sense. I’ll definitely come back.”
He explained that people diagnosed with autism spectrum tend to be loners and would rather be close to people they’re familiar with. Being able to see their loved ones while the mall isn’t busy lets these otherwise self-constricted people to expand their outlook while still staying within sight, he noted.
A younger child found initial exposure to an unfamiliar public environment to be a little overwhelming – but some time out at the Calm Room soon allowed enough adjustment for the family to explore the mall.
General manager Phang Sau LIan said effort had been made to offer various soothing facilities around the mall and on upper floors, rather than simply bunching up everything on the lower ground floor where the Calm Room is located.
“There are two sensory walls on the upper floors, together with signages explaining what our Autsome campaign hopes to achieve in helping autism spectrum people. This is just a start, more will be added in coming months and years because we’re committed to this for the long term.”
She said there are already over 20 mall tenants which have embraced the project – by dimming store lights, reducing music volume and even offering priority queues for those with the blue Austome wristbands. A small number have also given special privileges like free offers and discounts – with more to come, she promised.
- Also read: 1st autism-friendly mall in Malaysia